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Liverpool in title tussle but Rodgers must react

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It was a start to a game like few seen in the Premier League, as Luis Suarez burst forward in the first 30 seconds earning a slightly fortuitous free kick Arsenal knew they were in for a long day.

Few, however, could have envisaged when the resultant Steven Gerrard delivery ended with Martin Skrtel deflecting in for Liverpool's first opening minute goal at Anfield since 1998 that it would start a period of 20 minutes that saw Arsene Wenger's side pummelled into submission.

Much has been made of Brendan Rodgers' style of play ever since he arrived on the scene with Swansea City, after bringing them up through the Championship, Rodgers made them one of the stand out teams in their first season in the top-flight.

Then what he achieved in his first season - following a much debated move to Anfield - was perhaps equally as notable as he took a Liverpool side which had showed some signs of life under one of thier idols, Kenny Dalglish, and in the final 20 games produced one of the best records over that period for Liverpool since their last major push for a title back in 2009.

This season that momentum was continued as the passing style allied with high octane defence - high up the pitch has become a trademark of Liverpool's under Rodgers and now with a counter attack that is fast approaching one of the best in the world the Reds have been scoring goals for fun.

Indeed before Saturday's game Liverpool had the second best goal tally in the league only behind the equally free scoring Manchester City, 58 times Liverpool had hit the back of the net in their opening 24 games and that 2.5 goal per game average was about to improve against Arsenal.

The Gunners defence was still on the M57 as another peach of a corner from Gerrard was thumped home again by Skrtel as the Slovakian produced one of the best headers seen this season.

2-0 down and already staring down the barrel, Arsenal almost sealed their fate as Mesut Ozil was pick-pocketed by Jordan Henderson on half-way, Liverpool again surged forward and Suarez crossed for Raheem Sterling to tap home. 

The ecstatic Anfield crowd could hardly believe their eyes before, on 19 minutes, Philippe Coutinho played through Daniel Sturridge to put the game out of sight and leaving the league leaders at the start of the day wondering what had hit them.

With the game won this was when the area Rodgers has worked on so hard himself came into effect, knowing how potent their counter attack is, Liverpool sat back a little giving Arsenal more of the possession just as they did when they had a cushion against Everton.

Gerrard had help from the hard-working Henderson in front of the back four while Coutinho and Suarez, playing in a wider role, also weren't afraid to track back and put a shift in defensively.

Arsenal never looked a likely threat and if the midfield didn't manage to keep them at bay Kolo Toure along with Skrtel and Jon Flanagan all ensured it stayed that way and had great performances at the back.

That was how the game remained on the whole with Sterling's second and Liverpool's fifth the icing on the cake early in the second half and while Gerrard gave away a consolation penalty it was a mere dot on a hugely impressive day for the Anfield club.

Naturally all the talk in the media was about how Liverpool are back in the title hunt and being only six points behind new leaders Chelsea, with the Blues still to go to Anfield, few could doubt they are, but as Rodgers was keen to stress any title chase is merely a consequence of the bigger aim; a return to the top four and the Champions League.

To this point Rodgers and his men still have plenty of work to do, while the home form is outstanding with eleven wins, one draw and one loss all season, results away from Merseyside are pretty poor.

So far in their 12 away games Liverpool are 4-4-4 and it that is why they are outsiders for the title race and still in a battle with Everton and Tottenham for the final European place.

Of course luck had a part to play in the two defeats away at Chelsea and Manchester City over Christmas but overall the fire and passion the team show at Anfield isn't replicated to quite the same degree.

In the remaining thirteen games the Reds still have to visit some tricky places, Old Trafford being the biggest, while this coming week Liverpool visit Craven Cottage to play Fulham and then The Emirates for the FA Cup tie against Arsenal, it is perhaps these two games that could answer just how far Rodgers team can go.

Key players remain injured including Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique, Lucas and Mamadou Sakho but perhaps in a strange way this could be beneficial as they will be fresh for a final run in that could be the most crucial for Liverpool in years.

The Kop will savour a big win over Arsenal for the next few days but the hardest work is still to come for Liverpool and Rodgers as the games tick down the pressure and expectation will continue to creep up.

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Topics:
Liverpool
Premier League
Arsenal
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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